Frequently asked questions (patients and supporters)

In this section, we answer questions which patients, families, carers and other supporters frequently ask about the hearing process.

What does ‘involuntary patient’ mean?

An ‘involuntary patient’ is a patient who receives psychiatric treatment without consent under the Mental Health Act 2014 (WA) (Act).

A psychiatrist makes a patient ‘involuntary’ by making an ‘involuntary treatment order’.  The order may require the patient to stay in hospital (an ‘inpatient treatment order’) or to get treatment in the community (a ‘community treatment order’).

What happens after a psychiatrist makes an ‘involuntary treatment order’?

Copies of all involuntary treatment orders are sent to the Mental Health Tribunal (Tribunal).  The Tribunal is an independent decision-making body created by Parliament to protect patients from potential abuse of the powers under the Act.

The Tribunal’s main job is to review every new involuntary treatment order made by psychiatrists in Western Australia within 35 days (10 days for children under 18).  The Tribunal reviews each order again regularly (every three months for adults and every 28 days for children).  The purpose of the Tribunal’s review is to determine whether the patient still needs the involuntary treatment order.

What does the Tribunal do with the order?

Tribunal Registry staff open a file and schedule the patient for a hearing.  The hearing will be listed on a date within 35 days of the date of the order (10 days for children).

What is a hearing?

A hearing is a meeting where the Tribunal listens to the participants’ views and then makes a decision about whether the patient still needs the involuntary treatment order.

Where is the hearing held and who can attend?

The Tribunal usually holds its hearings at the hospital or health service treating the patient.  This is for the convenience of participants only.  The Tribunal is independent and is not part of the treating team or the health service.  Sometimes the hearing is held by videoconference rather than in-person.

Hearings are private and only some people are allowed to attend.  These include:

  • the patient;
  • the patient’s carer, close family member, or other personal supporter;
  • someone chosen by the patient to attend;
  • the patient’s representatives (a legal practitioner, mental health advocate, or other advocate approved by the Tribunal); and
  • the treating team (the psychiatrist and a case manager or nurse).

Where required, the Tribunal provides translators for the hearing.

If the patient does not want you to attend, the Tribunal may require you to leave.

The Tribunal does not always receive contact details for carers, close family members or others.  We recommend that carers, close family members and other interested people email their contact details to the Tribunal.  If you are entitled to be notified of the hearing and we have your contact details, we will notify you of the date, time and location of the hearing.

I am busy on the hearing date. Can it be changed?

I am concerned that my involvement may upset the patient but would like to participate in the hearing. What do I do?

This is a matter for your own judgement.  We suggest you discuss your concerns with the treating team.

I have questions about the hearing process. Who should I speak to?

The Tribunal provides comprehensive information about the hearing process on this website.  Please check here first.

If you still have questions, please contact the Tribunal Registry staff on (08) 6553 0060.  Registry staff are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice.

I am a guardian appointed by the State Administrative Tribunal. Will I be invited to the hearing?

The Tribunal encourages guardians to attend hearings.  However, we are not notified when a guardian is appointed.  We recommend that guardians email a copy of the Guardianship Order and their contact details to the Tribunal.  We will then notify you of the date, time and location of the hearing.

I want to give the Tribunal information about the patient. How do I do this and will the patient be allowed to hear/read it?

You may provide a submission in writing to the Tribunal at least three days before the hearing date by sending it to  Alternatively, if you are a person who is permitted to attend the hearing, you may make an oral submission to the Tribunal at the hearing.

The Tribunal is bound by the rules of natural justice (often referred to as procedural fairness).  The hearing process must be fair.  Generally, this means that material relied upon by the Tribunal in making its decision should be available to the patient and the patient should have the opportunity to comment on it.  It may be unfair for the Tribunal to rely on a medical report or other material that the patient has not seen.

If the document is in the possession of the health service, contact the treating psychiatrist to ask whether they intend to provide it to the Tribunal.  If so, there are certain safeguards in the Mental Health Act which may apply.  The treating psychiatrist will manage this process.

If the document is not in the possession of the health service (and you do not want them to have it), you may request in writing that the Tribunal does not disclose the document to the patient.  You should tell the Tribunal why you think the document should not be released to the patient.  Whether it needs to be disclosed will then become a preliminary issue to be determined by the Tribunal as a question of procedural fairness.  This is a matter for the Tribunal to consider in all of the facts and circumstances of the case and would be considered at the hearing.

In the meanwhile, the information is held by the Registry and will not be accessed by the Tribunal members or released to the patient.

If you have made a request that the Tribunal does not disclose the document to the patient then you should plan to attend the hearing to discuss your request with the Tribunal members.

What happens if the Tribunal decides at the hearing that the patient is still in need of the involuntary treatment order?

After the initial (first) review, the Tribunal will review the order again every three months (28 days for children) whilst it remains in place (periodic reviews).  If a patient remains on a community treatment order for more than one year, the Tribunal will review the order every 6 months thereafter. Periodic review hearings are scheduled automatically.  The same listing and notification process applies to initial and periodic reviews.

May I get a hearing transcript? What is the cost?

The Tribunal is not required to provide transcripts.  However, it occasionally does when requested by a patient for a good reason.  Applications for transcripts are available in writable pdf and word.  The Tribunal does not usually charge for transcripts in such cases.

Other participants attending the hearing (such as the treating team, carers, close family members, and friends) are not entitled to transcripts for confidentiality reasons.

I disagree with the Tribunal’s decision and want to appeal. What do I do?

The State Administrative Tribunal hears appeals of the Tribunal’s decisions.  Only patients and those who have been given permission by the State Administrative Tribunal may apply for a review of a Tribunal decision.  For more information please contact the State Administrative Tribunal on (08) 9219 3111 or 1300 306 017 (cost of a local call) or visit their website.

Page reviewed 12 November 2020